Gonzaga basketball, St. Patrick’s Day and easing of pandemic restrictions meant packed bars Thursday afternoon in Spokane.
Most people at the Swinging Doors in North Spokane and Jack and Dan’s on the perimeter of Gonzaga’s campus appeared to be there to root for the Bulldogs, who opened NCAA tournament play against Georgia State. They sported blue and red Gonzaga colors. Others sported green shirts and green beads around their necks to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Turns out the Zags needed a little Irish luck, too.
The environment at both bars was a bit subdued in the first half as the heavily favored Zags went into the locker room for halftime with a 2-point lead.
“I think people are pretty stressed,” Robertson said early in the second half when the Bulldogs were still trying to break away from Georgia State. “The first half was a little too close for comfort, but we’re a second half team, so I think we feel a little bit better now that we have some separation.”
Robertson turned out to be right, as Gonzaga surged ahead late and advanced to Saturday’s second round with a 93-72 win.
Some fans embraced their superstitions in hopes of a Zag victory.
Smoody said she put her white Reebok shoes on the wrong feet, a tradition that started last year as an accident when she put the wrong shoe on the wrong foot. But she went with it last year and continues the act before each Gonzaga postseason tournament game.
“They think it’s hilarious,” Smoody said of her friends.
Michael Tucci, another Gonzaga senior at Jack and Dan’s, said he has worn the same Gonzaga jersey for every Zags basketball game since his freshman year.
Jeanne Tribbett wore a red tutu at Jack and Dan’s to be “outside the box,” she said.
Besides the team’s talent, she said the attire perhaps brought a little luck Thursday.
Thursday wasn’t just the start of the tournament but the first time – at least for many Zag fans – since the start of the pandemic that they gathered unmasked in bars, cheering on the boys in blue and white.
“I think we’re all hungry to be back,” said Gonzaga senior Gill Smoody, who watched the game at Jack and Dan’s.
Fellow senior Alli Robertson said it was exciting to be with community members and students again.
“I think that’s something that we’ve missed a little bit,” said Robertson, who stood and watched in a row with her friends at Jack and Dan’s.
Matt Crook, a Zag alum who returned to Spokane with his former college roommate to take in the game, said he missed the rowdy environment at Jack and Dan’s after a two-year hiatus.
“Even last year with the Jalen Suggs buzzer-beater, it just wasn’t the same not having the crowd atmosphere,” said Crook, referring to the freshman phenom and future NBA player’s last-second basket that lifted Gonzaga over UCLA in the Final Four. “It was still amazing.”
Jordan Hilker cheered on Gonzaga from the Swinging Doors during his “extended lunch break.”
“It’s a lot of fun to be out here with fans again, just to enjoy the game together,” said Hilker, who wore a No. 13 Bulldog jersey.
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